In 2016, Brian Catterson, former editor of Motorcyclist, was at the CZ World Championships when he decided that a Husqvarna version was needed and similarly deserving.
A slight tweak to our archive bit this issue as Norm Dewitt went Husqvarna crazy and infected us too, great meet, great bikes.
Southern California was the hotbed for all things Husqvarna in the mid1960s, given the efforts of Edison Dye, a number of Swedish racers (Lars Larsson, Gunnar Lindstrom and Torsten Hallman) and a few early devotees such as Malcolm Smith. By 1970 the movie ‘On Any Sunday’ was being made, which upon its 1971 release, exploded the sales for all things Husqvarna at the very end of the four-speed era. Given the above, in March 2017 the Husky World Championship was held at Cahuilla Creek MX Park in the high desert near Anza, California.
Riders arrived from all walks of life and all parts of the globe. From the UK arrived Team UK, their four-rider effort being provided machines by Tom Contino at TMC. The team was also known as Team Nigel Mansell (after the F1 World Champion), because one rider was Nigel Green, and another Paul Mansell. They looked like Evel Knievel in their white starspangled outfits, plus having a union flag on the sleeves.
Ric Field came by way of South Africa. Ric had seen Malcolm Smith riding a Husqvarna in the 1976 Roof of Africa Rally, Ric immediately then getting a 250WR to race. For his 60th birthday, his children sent him back with 10,000 dollars to visit South Africa to pursue his other passion, surfing. Turned out the National Scrambles were there at the time and the locals provided him with a bike, all being 99% sure it was his old race bike, a 1976 250WR (very rare in South Africa). “I nearly fainted when I saw the bike,” exclaimed Ric. Ric won the 60+ class with it that day – now living in Denver, Colorado, his white/blue alloy tank 430 is one of the 13 Husqvarnas he currently owns, not counting the vintage bikes he exports to the UK.
Some of the racers were highly accomplished, others were anything but. Robb Mesecher brought ISDE experience (1989 Germany and 1990 Sweden) and he had brought an armada of beautifully restored machines, with a rare blue 125WR being one of the nicest bikes in the paddock.
Chip Howell, 1981 ISDE gold medalist and former Husqvarna factory rider, brought not only the 390CR he had raced for the factory, but his 1979 season mechanic Don West was there spinning wrenches just as he’d done 38 years before. Chip was to win the 1974 and earlier races, sweeping both motos with his 1974 400CR.
Professional racer Ben Meza strapped on a Jofa and put on a shocking display of style and speed on a 390CR in the 1975 and up vintage class. A stroke of luck was that I had brought a trunk full of 390 parts to sell at the event and those parts kept both Chip and Ben running after each had 1st moto mechanical failures, Chip losing a rear axle nut and Ben losing a chain when the swingarmmounted guide broke. Thinking of Wimpy (Popeye) for inspiration, I accepted payment from Meza by way of a hamburger.
There were a few truly special bikes in attendance. John Lefevre of Vintage Husky brought his titanium-framed bike that had previously had a four-speed engine which had been raced by Gerrit Wolsink. Next to that was another original factory rarity, a chrome moly race frame bike, this one a 125. Gunnar Lindstrom had brought his 1957 175cc Silverpilen Husqvarna that in many ways was a significant step in the development that ended with the 1969/71 400 cross.
Mega-collector and race announcer Tom White provided a very unique 1967 250cc Swedish Army bike that Lindstrom confirmed was to provide the basis for the later 360 Sportsman. In developing the 250 Army bike, Gunnar would ride it the 100 miles to Rolf Tibblin’s house where the two would train together, and then Gunnar would ride it home.
The honoree of this Inaugural Husky WC was 1971 US 500cc Champion Mark Blackwell. Mark being the first 500cc American champion, achieving this on a Husky 400, it was fitting that he would be the first racer honoured by this event. The event was a success and thankfully the California storm gods decided to hold the weather off long enough to allow the event to proceed during an otherwise drenching winter. Long may it continue…
Inspired by a CZ celebration... why not a Husqvarna one?